Netanyahu privately approved US sale of F-35s to UAE despite public opposition, report claims

Netanyahu privately approved US sale of F-35s to UAE despite public opposition, report claims
Netanyahu secretly gave the green light to a proposed sale of advanced weaponry to UAE, before condemning the deal when it was made public and anger erupted in Israel
2 min read
04 September, 2020
Netanyahu and Pompeo greet each other during a meeting in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020 [Getty]
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu consented to a US plan to sell advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates in order to cement its normalisation agreement with the Gulf country, despite denouncing the arms deal when it was made public, a New York Times investigation revealed on Friday.

Citing officials involved in the negotiations, the report claimed that in a private meeting, Netanyahu gave his approval to US officials for a weapons deal involving F-35 planes, which the UAE has for years been attempting to procure.

At the time of the alleged meeting, Netanyahu was involved in broader negotiations to secure a normalisation agreement with the UAE.

However he condemned the deal when it was made public and repeatedly denied he had approved it due to fierce opposition to it in Israel, including among defence officials.

Reports of the proposed arms deal surfaced on 19 August, six days after the US announced it had brokered a deal between Israel and UAE to establish full diplomatic relations.

The arms package includes cutting-edge weaponry  including F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones and EA-18G Growler jets - electronic warfare planes that can conduct stealth attacks by jamming enemy air defences.

The US has claimed that the arms sale was not linked to the normalisation agreement, but this has been met with scepticism.

As part of a long-running legal agreement to ensure Israel maintains a "qualitative military edge" in the region, the US must prioritise Israel's ability to defend itself when selling weapons to other countries in the region, where they may fall into the wrong hands.

Emirati officials were "stunned" by Netanyahu's criticism, the report claims, and responded by cancelling a meeting at the UN with US and Israeli officials scheduled for 21 August.

However they were later assured that the arms deal would still go ahead.

Congress, which is yet to be officially presented with the proposed arms sale, is likely to vote it down if Israel has not officially consented to it.

Furthermore, some have suggested that the process to ensure that the proposed weapons do not jeopardise Israel’s military advantage in the region would take months.

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